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Terefe, the lucky survivor

26th July 2020
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Found seriously injured in Simien Mountains in May. Now reunited with his pack after an amazing recovery. A Lotek collar reveals the intricacies of his new life. Read about Terefe’s fate – the first Ethiopian wolf ever to be nursed back to health and released to the wild.

9th May 2020. Simien Mountains National Park scouts informed EWCP of a seriously injured wolf found under a bridge close to Ayenameda outpost. The wolf was transported to the camp, where under the close attention of Getachew Assfaw, EWCP Simien Team Leader, received veterinary care. The news alarmed us; with an open wound and a shattered femur we feared the worst.

But the events that followed proved not only the resilience of Terefe (meaning “lucky survivor” in Amharic language, christened by the scouts who looked after him) but also of the EWCP team, which together with Park managers led a complex operation while contending with the arrival of Covid-19 in Ethiopia.

Week 1. Our key concern was the wolf’s welfare. His injuries were treated, antibiotics administered, and a safe place prepared to house him. He was kept in the outpost, close to his natal range. Close examination revealed that the wound was the result of a gunshot, triggering an ongoing investigation to find the culprit. Shootings of Ethiopian wolves and other highland wildlife are very rare, but every life matters, and any such persecution cannot be tolerated. Against the odds, Terefe remained alert and active, eating and drinking well.

Five weeks later. Progressively the wound healed and Terefe’s body condition and mood improved, eating avidly and expressing with steady vocalizations his readiness to leave his temporary quarters.  Terefe was one of two adult males in the Ayenameda pack, something the EWCP monitors could soon corroborate on repeated visits to the pack’s range. A plan to release him back into Ayenameda territory was drafted and agreed. 

Terefe at improvised recovery facility in Ayenameda, on his way to recovery and eager to leave!

Release day: 28th July 2020. Nobody knew what Tefere’s reaction waking up from the anesthesia might be, as this is the first time that an Ethiopian wolf has been kept in an enclosed space ever, and kept away from his mates. Will he be accepted back into his natal pack, we wondered?

Girma and Getachew preparing the sat collar for the release


Muktar takes blood samples after administering anesthesia

These fine teeth indicates that Terefe is a healthy two year-old


Terefe wakes after Muktar injects him with the reversal drug

Day 3 after release. Tefere had so far stayed within the habitat patch that had been his home. The monitors witnessed how he greeted profusely the two other wolves in Ayenameda pack. A happy reunion!

Terefe back on his hunting grounds. .         

Day 10 after release. Every 12 hours Iridium satellites transmit location data from Terefe’s collar and we can follow it online. Without this, we would have never known that on this day Tefere went in a long excursion down the steep slopes and back, which took him two hours. That evening, he started travelling on a different direction and for the next six days he visited the territories of two other packs, before coming back.

Day 16 after release. Terefe is still in Ayenameda, looking healthy. What triggered these excursions away from his natal area might remain a mystery – maybe the onset of the mating season?

Day 29 since his release. A dense fog hangs over the Simien Mountains, hiding the wolves from the attentive monitors and their powerful binoculars. Terefe is now exploring the territory of the neigbouring Geech pack. Has Ayenameda pack accepted him back? Was Terefere the dominant male, and has now been displaced by another wolf?

Terefe’s story will continue…

Terefe movements on 25th and 26th July 

The coordinated and selfless efforts that saved Terefe from what we believed was a fatal wound, have been remarkable. We want to say a big THANK YOU to our colleagues at the Simien Mountains National Park, Debark Woreda Veterinary Clinic, Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, and to the EWCP team under the leadership of Girma Eshete (Amhara Coordinator). Muktar Abute (EWCP Veterinary Team Leader) travelled from the Bale Mountains to take charge of the release operation; Fekadu Lema (EWCP Amhara Coordinator) and Getachew Assefa, Jejew and Andualem completed the team. Kept away from Ethiopia due to the pandemic, Eric, Jorgelina and Claudio worked closely with the team from our lockdown locations in UK and France.

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